It seems to be time for ‘son shine’ in Indian politics. The DMK working President M.K.Stalin’s time has come at last after the death of his celebrated father Kalaignar Karunanidhi recently. The question is will he be a worthy son to inherit his father’s legacy? The state BJP leader Tamilisai Soundararajan had remarked, “After the demise of the sun (Karunanidhi), stars are trying to shine.” Will he really shine?
With the passing away of both Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi, both AIADMK and DMK have lost iconic leaders who had ruled the state alternatively and treated their parties like their personal fiefdoms. For the DMK the transition comes at a time when state politics is in a flux. With no charismatic leader heading any of the small or big Dravidian parties and the national parties, Stalin has an edge if he goes about in the right manner.
The road ahead for Stalin is not all that smooth. He has many challenges from within and outside. First, though he had established his supremacy in the party with the support of his late father, there are some pinpricks. His elder brother and former Union Minister, M.K. Alagiri is on the warpath trying to snatch his claim on Karunanidhi’s legacy. Less than a week after his father’s death, Alagiri, who had been expelled for anti-party activities in 2014 has questioned the leadership of his younger brother.
He had been nursing his ambitions though Karunanidhi had more or less anointed Stalin as his successor. Stalin has now vowed that he would not be cowed down by any ‘flutter’ and will overcome any challenges from ‘within or outside’ the party. Alagiri has some following in Madurai and the neighbouring districts. His claims about the support he enjoys notwithstanding, Stalin’s relevance in the party has been established beyond doubt. The other challenger could be his half sister Kanimozhi, presently a Rajya Sabha MP. She could also claim her father’s legacy but she is quiet now.
The party seems to be more or less united and stands behind Stalin as senior DMK leaders had bowed down to the wishes of their Thalaivar. In the first executive meeting held to condole the death of Karunanidhi on Thursday, the party rallied behind Stalin.
Once he overcomes the succession challenge Stalin has to concentrate on other challenges. The first thing he has to address is to strengthen the organisation and keep the foot soldiers ready to face the next polls. This is a daunting challenge despite the committed cadres of the party.
Next comes the question of building up alliances. Karunaidhi was a master politician and also because of his stature, allies were willing to join his coalition. What Stalin should do is to try and keep the present alliance partners intact and also look for new allies. A viable state-level coalition of non-BJP parties would go a long way as it is arithmetic which matters in today’s politics. Winning the next Lok Sabha polls is crucial for his success as in the 2014 polls the party did not get a single seat while rival AIADMK won 37 seats.
The DMK has chosen the sensitive and emotional subject of state autonomy, something which founder leader C.N. Annadurai had raised and given up later. Stalin’s attempt for a show of strength in the proposed state autonomy conference, which will provide a platform for both national and regional parties to regain powers of the state, is a step in that direction. All non-BJP Chief Ministers in the south and the east have been invited to the event.
Though he had been trying an image makeover by sporting T-shirts and jeans instead of the traditional dhoti and shirt to woo young voters before the 2016 Assembly polls, the DMK did not win the polls. It was practically Stalin who ran the show for the past five years. The next blow came when the DMK candidate lost the R.K. Nagar bye-polls, a seat which had fallen vacant after the demise of Jayalalithaa. TTV Dinakaran, Sasilala’s nephew, who contested as an independent candidate, won the elections hands down. Stalin’s critics accused him of being complacent.
Stalin has already committed the mistake of launching his son Udhayanidhi, an actor and businessman, into politics indicating continuation of dynastic politics. The DMK never believed in this kind of politics as leaders emerged in their own right. This has created heartburn in the family with his son-in-law Sabareesan, who has been managing his recent campaign, reported to be unhappy.
Stalin must never forget that he is Karunanidhi’s son, and not another Karunanidhi. Unlike his father who remained a cult figure Stalin has to prove that he deserves the mantle he is inheriting. Once he takes over the party officially, he will be wearing a crown of thorns.